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The Excavation of Hob's Barrow (formerly Incantamentum) - folk horror adventure set in rural Victorian England

Boleskine

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Boleskine

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Posting pics or full text of articles? Dave is a true Codexer at heart, even though he tells everyone otherwise.

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Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth


Behind the scenes video of Samantha Béart voicing Thomasina Bateman, the player character of the upcoming folks horror game, The Excavation of Hob's Barrow. Also briefly features me as a drunk Yorkshireman. Coming September 28th from Cloak and Dagger Games!
 

Boleskine

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https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/the-excavation-of-hobs-barrow-review

The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow is a short, mostly easy puzzle adventure more notable for it's a wonderful atmosphere of complete dread.

https://techraptor.net/gaming/reviews/excavation-of-hobs-barrow-review
Overall, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow was a fun, exciting, horrific adventure. With lovely pixel art and particularly gorgeous scenery, strong but not excessively difficult puzzles, and an appropriately interesting and horrifying story, it’s well worth the time investment to start your archaeological dig.

https://checkpointgaming.net/review...rrow-review-the-answer-lies-beneath-the-soil/

8/10

Positive:​

  • Suspenseful and harrowing story based in real folklore
  • Detailed pixelated art style filled with creepy atmosphere
  • Puzzles make narrative and logical sense designed to compliment the narrative
  • Convincing voice acting that fit the era and location

Negative:​

  • Not a lot of time spent at the barrow for how much it was forshadowed
  • Dialogue options don't change anything
With its skilled application of a foreboding atmosphere instead of cheap jumpscares, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is the perfect game to lead us into the spooky season. It’s a well-crafted mystery that is creepy in all the right places, taking us back to a not-too-distant past of superstition. If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful tale of oft-overlooked folklore and themes of grief and loss, the Excavation of Hob’s Barrow gets my firm recommendation.

https://www.gameshub.com/news/revie...ow-pc-adventure-game-review-wadjet-eye-30313/

4/5
Despite this inevitable deflation, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a very strong and cohesive experience that deftly executes an absorbing folk horror atmosphere in virtually every moving part. No element of the traditional adventure game format is wasted, with every facet contributing to make it a focused and memorable journey, with a very strong identity. It’s the kind of game that immediately makes you want to play more adventure games.
 

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
https://www.eurogamer.net/the-excavation-of-hobs-barrow-review-an-adventure-game-with-depth

The Excavation of Hob's Barrow review - an adventure game with depth​

By gaslight...

Hob's Barrow
Eurogamer.net - Recommended badge


Hob's Barrow is a game that refuses to leave your brain until the whole thing is untangled.

SPOILER WARNING: I try not to reveal specifics of Hob's Barrow in this piece, but to get at what's special about this game, I've had to talk about certain elements of the design that you might not want to know going in.

My favourite moment in The Excavation of Hob's Barrow came about three hours after I'd finished it. But we'll get to that in a bit.

From the off, it's hard not to root for Thomasina Bateman. In an age of steam trains and parasols, she has come to a small village in the north of England to dig up an ancient burial site, regardless of all the obstacles the local patriarchy - and the soggy English weather - can place in her way.

And it's hard not to root for The Excavation of Hob's Barrow itself. Here's a compact yet carefully made point-and-click horror delivered in the classic adventure game style. The interface and inventory are pleasantly streamlined - there's a button to show all points of interest, and you can even warp to exits with a double-click - but the stately pace of a classic adventure game is adhered to with great reverence.

The less you know about the story going in, the better. Just be aware that there is a barrow that Thomasina wants to dig up, but her first tasks involve getting the local folk to admit that this barrow even exists. And she has to convince some of them to even acknowledge her for starters. How do you go about this stuff? Classic adventure game business, obviously: talking to everyone until there's nothing left to ask them, picking up anything that isn't stuck to the floor and keeping an eye on promising locked doors.

The animation is lovely, switching between elegant, beautifully animated sprites as you move around the world, and jarring, rather terrifying close-ups as you watch cut-scenes. In harmony with this, secondary characters walk a fine line between appearing human and inhabiting all the horror fiction and small town stereotypes you might desire.

The puzzles, particularly in the game's first two thirds, manage to be pleasant work which keeps you thinking but never creates annoying roadblocks. You're always working out what you want, while keeping an eye on what other people want to - so that you can create synergies where these wants overlap.

Hob's Barrow
Always here for a good cairn.

More than puzzling, though, it's just a pleasure to be in such an atmospheric world. The landscapes are by Constable and the dialogue is brisk and characterful. There are times early on, as Thomasina encounters local idiots who want to put her in her place as a woman, and other local idiots who want to engage her in discussions examining the conflict between folklore and rationality, where the whole thing threatens to become a kind of playable Essex Serpent, that other carefully Gothic story built of displacement and superstition. The railway's just come to the area - is it the end of everything holy? This is all wonderfully done.

The Essex Serpent's an interesting touchpoint. Sarah Perry's novel flirts with horror in the service of something deeper, stranger, and ultimately sweeter. At first - and 'at first' counts all the way up until the credits rolled and a few hours beyond - I was tempted to say that Hob's Barrow flirts with flirting with horror, before settling more firmly into safe genre territory. The game moved with grace, and I was gripped until the end, but there were moments where I worried that fealty to the traditions and specific narrative gravity of horror got in the way of a more interesting story that Hob's Barrow was starting to tell. Horror offers thrills and proper magic, but doesn't it often come with requirements and restrictions?

Equally, narrative choices made by the developers enforces a change in the kind of puzzles I encountered as things worked towards the climax. I moved from playful set-pieces that encouraged me to think about the people around me and how I might use social engineering to get what I want, to much more mechanical adventure game stuff. Again, it was beautifully handled, and there's a lovely sense of doomy mystery throughout, but Thomasina's such a charismatic protagonist I missed the parts of the game that saw her engaged with other people.

Hob's Barrow
Great game, highly questionable medical advice.

To quote another Thomasina: you cannot stir things apart. Or can you? After I finished the game I slumped off to do the dishes, quietly disappointed. I walked through a familiar checklist of disappointed thoughts. The danger, I reminded myself, is of getting annoyed that Hob's Barrow isn't quite the game I want it to be. Sure, I thought, I am very happy to put everything else aside and enjoy this characterful slice of dark-hearted English folklore. But even so, I suspected that, towards the end in particular, Hob's Barrow wasn't quite the game Hob's Barrow wanted to be either. It left too many interesting themes aside as it raced to the conclusion. Thomasina's such a brilliant creation she deserves a game that gives her a bit more agency.

I plucked away at threads like this for four hours that day, until everything clicked. I suddenly felt like I understood something much deeper about what the game was trying to say, and how it used horror elements rather than gave way to them. What a brilliant thing this is - a puzzle in itself, every bit as much as something like Link's Awakening - but a narrative, thematic puzzle rather than a spatial puzzle in which the map itself is a giant brainteaser.

And here's the thing: those four hours after finishing the game and turning off the computer, those four hours are where I truly played Hob's Barrow. Busywork and dialogue aside they're where I sorted the narrative, untangled the true theme and made sense of what I'd witnessed. Yet more proof, I guess, that for some games, what we call gameplay extends far beyond the screen and the keyboard or controller.

Under those Constable skies and that endless drizzle, then, Hob's Barrow works a sneaky kind of magic. Dig in.
 

Boleskine

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Just for comparison, Return to Monkey Island was in the top five sellers on its release day and around 9pm GMT it had ~160 reviews on Steam.

Right now, after 8pm GMT, Hob's Barrow has 6 reviews and is somewhere around #200 in the top sellers.

:negative:

That's not at all surprising but it's another sobering reminder that a point-and-click adventure game without the brand recognition of Monkey Island is still a very niche product, even with the positive reviews from sites like RPS or Eurogamer.
 
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Jermu

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yeah not really wokeness unless you count not wanting to get married to be that

finished game, took around 7-8 hours

good:

voice acting
art is very good
interesting setting
story mainly besides 1 illogical decision from heroine
logical puzzles
cheap price

bad:
too easy and too short but its only 11€ so still money's worth. Easier than the newest monkey island :negative:


spoilers regarding ending

before diving into barrow the main char gets information that she was lured there for blood sacrifice but she does not go question the guy after gaining this information but rushes straight into the "death trap"

there might be 2 different endings or there is just bad / evil ending which I got.

for 11€ it is a steal go buy it
 
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Mary Sue Leigh

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I'll play it as well, looks quite good for the asking price. If it's easy, suits me fine, I haven't played proper adventure games in ages and should probably start low in order to get back to it.
Have to say though I didn't see this advertised or recommended anywhere other than here. Makes me sad to think a lot of people who might really like this might not even see it, unlike RMI that was advertised everywhere front and center.
Yes, that does make a huge difference.
 

toughasnails

Guest
I've enjoyed the hour or so I have played. It seems to be much more focused on dialogues rather than on puzzles but that might change later, there appear to be choices and some sort of morality system (we'll see if that is only for flavor or if there are multiple endings), the spritework and voice acting are top notch. Really good soundtrack too.

Mary Sue Leigh
Places like RPS or Eurogamer aren't exactly niche even if they aren't well liked around these parts, and I did see some coverage even prior to release... So it can't be just that. It's p depressing in any case.
 

1451

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A nice little adventure. It has my bane which is a musical puzzle.
Had to use my headphones to solve it because I could not differentiate the sounds through the speakers and in the end I think that I solved it randomly.
Very cozy atmosphere during the night scenes.
 

Jermu

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A nice little adventure. It has my bane which is a musical puzzle.
Had to use my headphones to solve it because I could not differentiate the sounds through the speakers and in the end I think that I solved it randomly.
Very cozy atmosphere during the night scenes.
there was "music sheet" above door I just used that to solve it
 

1451

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I knew there was something I was missing.
But my monitor in this game was too dark and I kept missing details like this.
Had to use space often in order to discover hotspots on the screen.
 

MRY

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Steam reviews are glowing. Last I checked, no one had a complaint. Simultaneous users is very high for a WEG title. This may not be a hit like RMI but it’s going to be very successful unless there’s a sudden influx of haters giving negative reviews.
 

Mary Sue Leigh

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Alright, I finished it. It really is short & sweet, but one of the titles I could just not put down after starting! Well worth the price tag if you ask me.

I feel it builds the mystery quite well. Having been a bit boring at first, it didn't waste much time to get me totally invested in what actually is in Hob's Barrow, where it is, and why the various characters do or do not want me to investigate it?
The locations are somewhat bleak, but that's in service of the tone it sets. You basically walk around the village and surroundings over three days, pursuing your tasks.
Controls are fairly simple, which works.. Right click - Examine , left click, do anything else, usually pick up, or talk to. There is a lot of dialog, all voiced. Really helps getting a feel for those NPCs. Most of them are somewhat more fleshed out, only a few feel like absolute throw-away one-use characters. Inventory has the same rules, I feel like some items were red herrings, most see use in some way, and you can combine items, which isn't used that often though.
The atmosphere is bleak, dreary, somewhat unsettling, definitely serves the mystery. Though it is not quite horror, I would say. The music is sparse, further stressing the theme of isolation and uncanny sights.
I can proudly proclaim that I never needed a walkthrough or hint. The most obvious solution is USUALLY the correct one, also milking all available characters for information will often tell you very clearly what to do. Some may not like this design philosophy, but I am thankful that the thing that usually gets me stuck never occurred: When I try to do the correct thing in the wrong way because moonlogic, which causes me to abandon the actually correct path.

Have to agree though that the ending feels way too forced. The hints about what REALLY is going on are being dropped way too hard by mid-game already, especially by the character narrating "OH IF ONLY I HAD JUST LEFT TOWN AT THAT MOMENT!" again and again. Also another character pretty much spells it out for you before the final chapter. Yet, there is no alternative ending that I can find, if having all the clues STILL does not dissuade the main character from doing what she's set out to do.
Speaking of, "Thomasina" is a serviceable main character. She's a bit of a know-it-all, due to her upbringing I guess, and she doesn't seem to possess an ounce of humor. Guess this game isn't meant to be funny, so, whatever. Her catch phrase is "Curses!"
At times she does like to explain that she "needs no man" and might even be better off unmarried, but seeing how it all ends for her, this really feels more like a setup for the eventual comeuppance rather than a message, but I don't even care. It never gets in the way of anything much.

My biggest gripe is most definitely the graphics. The visuals that should look stunning, often times feel flat because there's just too much "pixel art" aesthetic. Honestly, I feel the adventure games of yore like King's Quest, Monkey Island et al had higher resolution than that. It becomes especially bad if the character moves into the background and rather than just turning into a mess of pixels, just gets shrunk down, very clearly showing that the game COULD be more high res. It looks jarring.
Something to positively highlight is the occasional psychedelic "POV" cutscenes that strongly remind me of "Shadow of the Comet" or "Prisoner of Ice". If that wasn't the inspiration, I would be surprised to find that out.

Not going into spoilers, but almost all things that are set up, pay off in the end, something which RMI and Thistleweed park apparently did not do. I'm left satisfied, it feels like a Lovecraft stories kind of ending such as Dagon or The Shadow out of Time. There's also a dash of Color out of Space in there.

I'm giving this a definite recommend, if you aren't bothered by the short length (6 to 8 hours, maybe more?) and the low difficulty. Got really stumped only 2, 3 times maybe, and that's probably more than the average player. Even in the last stage which I call "Temple of puzzles", all the real bangers are spelled out point blank in the father's journal. There isn't much challenge here either.

Here's a spoiler-y list of things that I was disappointed did seemingly NOT get paid off:

The Father Roach's sickness was not explained. This could be because I chose not to discuss it with Mrs de Plancy since I promised not to. Maybe if you do, you learn more. Perhaps he was cursed by the cult due to opposing their evil deity?
I didn't manage to find out why the assistant Kenneth never arrived, nor sent more money. It could have been something harmless, or maybe he was also a cult member and wanted to make sure Thomasina got stranded with an unpaid bar tab?
The biggest disappointment was that I never figured out that why in the city square at night, all the windows are unlit EXCEPT one on the first floor of the cobbler. This seemed really significant because the cobbler was supposedly the person that made fist contact with the "hobgoblin" back in the day.

Anyway, this really got me wanting for more.
 

HoboForEternity

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Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Yeah pretty enjoyable. I finished it all in one saturday. Steam says 12 hours, but it’s probably closer to 10 hours since i left the game on doing chores. I would put this game in B+. I liked the ending but understand the complains about the lack of choices. I do feel
the moment you came into the town you already lost. Can't win again some buried cosmic horror. By the time thomasinq learnt about the plot to take her blood, she's already determined to see it trough no matter what because she wants to cure her father. Kinda blinded her to the whole logic and reason thing.

some questions:
1. Who's the R.A initial in the stone before the barrow? Best guess i have is
R.A= just anagram of initial A.R= Abraxus Rex
2. Who's the wilding girl with the fiddle? Did she work with the villain too?
3. Whose rosary you found in the church?
it's implied the innkeeper works with the count all this time. With him showing up in the mass and the plates above the bar are the same animals as the animal head puzzles. Why does he need the rosary for you to open your tab? He can just open the tab knowing she's there for their mission

More:

why are they tying the Milkman and stuff him with those flowers? If he knew something, it'd be easier for them to kill him. Or is it just part of the plan to "ease" thomasina into the whole ritual
 
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I won't have time to play this until close to the New Year, but I'm looking forward to picking it up. Always happy to throw Dave some dosh when he actually publishes a real adventure game*coughcoughUNAVOWEDcoughcough*.
From the descriptions here it sounds like it plays similarly to the first half of GK1, but without the obtuseness of Sierra design, is that a fair analysis?
 

Alienman

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Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Codex Year of the Donut Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
I found it charming at times, but overall I didn't like it too much. Wrote a review for my blog. It's not uploaded yet, so consider it a preview ;)

hobs9.jpg
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a point & click adventure game by Cloak and Dagger Games. It’s set in Britain during the olden times with a story steeped in British folklore, faintly sprinkled by Lovecraft. Now, I don’t want to say everything occult, otherworldly must be Lovecraft, and I wouldn’t say this was inspired by it either, until the end that is. For it’s only a small segment of the game, time-wise, but it’s a huge part of the narrative – so, there we go.

You play as Thomasina (great name by the way!) Bateman. A young antiquarian looking to write a book about the barrows of England, and her latest place of interest is Hob’s Barrow located in the little village of Bewlay. It’s get stated fairly quickly that your presence is not met with the highest of enthusiasm. There is something very mysterious about this barrow that you want to excavate. But being a stout follower of logic and reason, something absurd as folktale superstition by the yokels won’t hinder you. And so goes the story, slowly you unwrap this enigma through to talking to people, helping them out, and convincing them of your plight. It’s all very slow, though, which makes me think the game might have some pacing issues getting the story across. This leads me to gameplay.

The first big part of the game is all set in, or around this small village. Being a point & click adventure, it is expected to do a lot of clicking, searching for clues, and talking to people, but one issue I found with this in the case of Hob’s Barrow, is that the puzzles are very tedious. Because of two reasons. They are mostly just filler stuff, finding an item for someone, then that person needs an item too before he or she can fulfill the request. And so it goes, round and round, without much actual interesting lore and story coming through. It is charming in places, and one story of loss got to me. It was the tale about the town drunk and the loss of his dear mum. But as part of the bigger picture, the mystery, it’s really slow going. You will be doing a lot of running back and forth, seeing the same backgrounds constantly. I think the developer recognized this too because he added a fast travel mechanic that instantly transports you from scene to scene.

hobs3.jpg


Now, I wouldn’t say it’s bad in the sense of it being an adventure game, it’s just a bit slow, and boring at times, because of the padding. The UI looks pretty and is functional. There are item combinations to be had, and some puzzles actually require brain activation. But as mentioned, 70-80% of the game are of the mundane type, and only the last part of the game seems to have some adventure “weight”.

And this leads to another problem for me. I don’t want to spoil anything here, so I will try to avoid it as much as possible. There are no choices to be made in the game, it’s narrative set, and it makes me feel more like an observer than a player. This is not uncommon, but in the case of this game, it was really frustrating, because the main protagonist gets so many clues that something is off, and still goes through with some really dumb decisions. So in the end, when the game is as most interesting both gameplay and narrative-wise, my brain had already checked out, due to slight boredom, and my frustration with Thomasina. The end overall, while Lovecraftian, disappointed me. It’s written well, but I didn’t like it, it made me feel like the whole thing was just a waste of time. I do think, though, that this could have been great, if you get to do some decisions in the game, having the game correspond with multiple endings. Now, as mentioned, it was just an act of frustration waiting for the ending. I would argue that the ending doesn’t even have that great of a payoff when it comes to its centerpiece. There are many loose ends, and some things don’t add up when you think about it.

hobs6.jpg
Visually, I think it looks great. It has nice pixel art in general with impressive animations and creepy zoom-in on characters and items. But the game use “fade to black” way too often where animations and events are implied, and not shown. For some reason this really started to annoy me at the end, it’s just something unpleasant for the eyes having the screen go pitch black every 10 minutes. Every piece of dialogue is voice-acted, and I have no issues here, even if some voice actors repeat a lot. I mean, it’s a budget title, and that it even has voice acting is impressive. It adds to the Britishness of the setting, having all these people speak to you with different thicknesses of English accents. The music I did find very moody, I got to say it did stand out a great bit, and I can see myself listening to the soundtrack outside of the game – depending on my frame of mind of course.

Do I recommend The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow? Well, it’s hard to say. I didn’t dislike it as a whole, even if I found issues with it. The setting is charming, and the game is not very expensive for what you get. It’s well told, got nice music, and is another point-and-click adventure game in a genre that doesn’t get too many releases. I can’t decide, money-wise it’s probably no loss, but due to how the story is formed, I can’t see myself ever going back to it personally, and the atmosphere wasn’t that great to warrant another play-through for that alone. I recognize that my dislike for the ending is subjective since it got a good rating on Steam at this current moment. So people seem to like it. I would say go for it if you are genre starved, otherwise wait for a price drop.

Thanks for reading.
 

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